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EC in new controversy over army deployment


c3a0c4d7bdcecb2c42c83d8a3ecf0085-4b895baf79984c427c34fdb904d80ead-24The election commission (EC) has evoked controversy once again by taking the decision to deploy army during the election, then changing the decision the very next day. Election experts say, this is just another example of how the commission is beholden to the government.

The EC had apparently taken a firm stand by deciding on army deployment, without looking towards the government or Awami League. But that firmness didn’t last even 24 hours. On Tuesday the commission took a decision for army deployment, and then on Wednesday said that the army would remain in the cantonment. They will only emerge if the returning officer summons them.

Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmed told reporters, “It has just been specified where the army will be positioned. They can be many errors in the course of work which have to make latter rectified. The letter has simply been replaced.”

Several ministers and sources connected with the election commission have said that even though the government hadn’t wanted army deployment, its stand had been somewhat flexible initially. Later, however, the government changed its stance and the election commission adjusted its own decision accordingly.

The commission amended its letter and sent it to the Principal Staff Officer of the Armed Forces Division later Wednesday evening. Signed by Shamsul Alam, deputy secretary of the commission secretariat, signed the amended letter which stated that a battalion of army personnel will be on duty in every city from 26 to 29 April (from two days before the election to a day after the election). They will basically remain within the cantonment as a “reserve force” and will emerge as a “striking force” is summoned by the returning officer.

The letter also said, the army will act in accordance to the Criminal Code. The deputy secretary himself delivered the letter to the armed forces division.

Former election commissioner M Sakhawat Hossain told Prothom Alo, “The term “reserve force” is associated with operations. If there is any operation to be carried out, the army is given an hour or an hour and a half’s notice to come out from the cantonment. Once they emerge, they divide up into a reserve and a striking force. There is no scope of being a ‘reserve force’ within the cantonment. The army naturally stays within the cantonment. How can that be considered deployment?”

Information minister Hasanul Huq Inu told Prothom Alo, “It is the EC’s decision to deploy the army. It is their decision how they will go about it. It will be as the commission wants.”

He said, “If the EC says the army will be deployed outside, that is how it will be. Then again, the EC may want the army to remain within the barracks and emerge when summoned.”

On 21 April the CEC had said, “There was no need to call in the army for this election. However, recently we have been going through alarming times. The people are still in a dilemma. We have asked for army assistance so as to reassure the voters.”

Concerning this strategic change of decision regarding army deployment, BNP said, the EC is proceeding with a one-sided stand. At a press conference yesterday, BNP’s international affairs secretary Asaduzzaman said, the people have confidence in the army, but the government does not. That is why the election commission has moved away from its decision to deploy the army.

Concerning the change in decision, yesterday the CEC said, “The cantonment is the centre of Dhaka. It is better to go through the cantonment to Mirpur, it is better to come from Mirpur through the cantonment. They have to stay somewhere. Strategically, it is easiest for the army to move from the cantonment. Magistrates will also be there with them”


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